Strike a light

Sunday 6 March 2016

Those who have been teaching IB Chemistry for some years now may remember the cover of the first edition of my Study Guide published by OUP. It showed a burning match.

Recently the American Chemical Society has produced a good video explaining the chemistry behind the striking of a match.

The Chemistry of Matches

Although much of the chemistry is not really covered by the IB syllabus it is well worth watching. You could ask your students to try to write the equations for some of the reactions that occur.  For example the spontaneous combustion of white phosphorus in air:

P4(s)  +  5O2(g) →   P4O10(s)

and the thermal decomposition of potassium chlorate:

2KClO3(s)  →  3O2(g)  +  2KCl(s)

It is not a good idea however to let them react potassium chlorate with antimony trisulfide, Sb2S3 in a school laboratory as this mixture is used in explosives.


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